On Premises Power BI with Power BI Report Server

On June 12, Microsoft officially released the Power BI Report Server.  The version that was released had a different set of features than what was  promised when the product was announced earlier, which I discussed in a previous post. Some of the features and versions of SQL Server which are available to receive the Power BI Report Server upgrade were clarified at MS Data Summit.  This post contains everything you need to know to determine if you can upgrade from a current SQL Server Reporting Services Instance, what features are included in Power BI Report Server and what time frame those who want to use it should follow.

Power BI Report Server Only Connects to Analysis Services Data Sources

The most glaring change from what was announced earlier, is Power BI Report Server can only connect to analysis services data sources, both tabular and multidimensional.  If you want to connect to SQL Server, Oracle or Excel or all three, use the Power BI Web Service.  Only going to the cloud version will users be able to create a data mashup or connect to anything but SQL Server.

Connecting to one data source is not what was promised when the Power BI Report Server was announced in May.  Various Power BI Product members held a session at the Microsoft Data Summit where attendees were able to ask questions.  I asked,  “When are we going to be able to use Power BI Report Server with data sources other than analysis services?”  In a room full of people, I was assured that it was a top priority of the team to release the same data connectivity functionality for Power BI Report Server that currently exists for Power BI Services and the current plan was to release this functionality the next release.

Power BI Report Server Releases are Planned for Three Times a Year

Power BI Desktop currently has a monthly release schedule.  The Power BI Service is often updated more frequently than that, PowerBIRSas Microsoft tends to make changes when they are complete, rather than hold them for a given date.  In a corporate environment, it is sometimes difficult to accommodate such frequent releases.  Power BI Report Server has a planned release cycle of three times a year, with exceptions of hot fixes or security patches.  The next release of Power BI Report Server is planned for the fall.

To ensure that the version of Power BI Desktop matches Power BI Report Server, there is now a version of the Power BI Desktop for Power BI Reporting Server. The icon is exactly the same, but when you start the program the splash screen is different, as it shows you that you are running Power BI Report Server, in the top left corner.  When running the Power BI Desktop, the title also clearly says report server.  It is possible to run both, as I am presently doing on my PC.  One of the pitfalls of doing this, is when you click on a PBIX file, the Desktop version which loads is the last one you installed.  The Power BI Desktop Report Server version contains functionality which is not supported in Power BI Report Server, as it allows you to connect to other data sources and run R, neither of which will work in Power BI Report Server.  Since the next release of Power BI Report Server, the one which should support connectivity to more than analysis services, is going to be part of the next fall release, that release should contain the data mashup capabilities in the future Power BI Report Server Desktop version.

No Dashboards for Power BI Report Server

As I talked about in a previous post, there is no dashboard capability for Power BI Report Server, as it creates reports and other desktop features.  Power BI Service features, like Dashboards and Workspaces, are not available in the desktop or in Power BI Report Server. In the meeting that the product team held, someone else in the room asked a question which I promised to answer in a previous post. “Are there plans to add dashboards in a future release of Power BI Report Server?” The answer was no. Microsoft does not consider that a Power BI Report Feature and does not have the desktop feature in the product road map.

Yours Always

Ginger Grant

Data aficionado et SQL Raconteur

Power BI Data Insights


2,500 people sat in the semi-darkness of the MS Data Insight Summit, joining who knows how many watching the live stream, watching and listening to the upcoming changes to  Power BI.  Some of the announcements were expected, like the General Availability [GA] release of Power BI Premium and Power BI Report Server on June 12.  Although there is a lot of documentation on both products, there was still more information to be learned now they are released.  Microsoft also announced they were creating a new product offering, Power BI Embedded.  As part of the product realignment, the ability to embed Power BI into applications was moved to only being a Premier feature.  This move caused an uproar in the marketplace as many companies wanted to continue using Power BI Embedded, but could not justify paying Power BI Premier pricing.  Power BI Embedded was created to address the sticker shock. This new Power BI product has two different pricing levels, EM1 and EM2, starting at $625 per month.  Not a whole lot of information has been publicly released regarding Power BI Embedded, but it is designed to have a limited feature set, focused on just embedding Power BI.

Power BI Upcoming Features

Microsoft demonstrated some upcoming features of desktop which were predictably very impressive.  They created an amazing time line custom visual which I really hope to use soon.  Another neat feature which was demonstrated in the keynote was drill down pages.  This feature allows users to create pages which will be displayed when the field is selected on the previous screen, and the data will reflect the selection.  As there can be a lot of different filters which can be created for Power BI, a new bookmark feature will be coming soon which will allow users to save the context of the report, which saves all of the selections made with all of the slicers. With this feature, the next time the report is viewed, only the selections people find important will be accessed.  These new features are scheduled for released in the next three months.

Power BI Community


Art credit to Josh Sivey who was kind enough to send this

One of the last things that Microsoft did was to thank the user community for their involvement with Power BI. Since many of the new features added are based upon feedback from the user community, Microsoft really works hard to engage the larger user community to help share information regarding the product as well as mine the ideas from . It was nice of Microsoft to recognize people in the community. Even though the slide was not up for very long, lots of people notice who was recognized.

There is material for a number of other posts from this conference, so please subscribe to hear more information about Power BI very soon.

Yours Always

Ginger Grant

Data aficionado et SQL Raconteur

Running Power BI Locally with the Power BI Report Server

Power BI Now Available on your Local Server

Power BI: Now available without being on the cloud

Microsoft had an lot of announcements about Power BI this week, so many that it was easy to miss some of the finer details, including those which are going to be important in making decisions going forward.  Since the announcements are changes which will be effective soon, in the case of the free tier of Power BI on June 1, and released “… generally available late in the second quarter of 2017” this will give Power BI users time to adjust to the changes. In a nutshell, Microsoft has announced they are adding a cloud service called Power BI Premium which will allow people to create capacity instead of per-user licenses, the free edition will no longer to be able to share files, Power BI Embedded is going to be migrated to the Power BI Service from Azure, and finally, at long last, it will be possible to run Power BI reports locally and without needing anything in the cloud.

Running Power BI without a Cloud

It is not possible to run Power BI reports locally right now, but sometime before the 1st of July 2017,  users who have SQL Server 2016 Enterprise Edition per-core and active Software Assurance [SA] can deploy Power BI Report Server.  This means that no one is going to have to wait for SQL Server 2017 for Power BI on premise as it will be available sometime in June.  The functionality in SQL Server 2017 SQL Server Reporting Server [SSRS]. Community Technology Preview edition is going to be available in Power BI Report Server, with the addition of the ability to include custom visuals and many data sources, which the CTP version did not do. The Power BI Server includes all of the functionality of SSRS This means that users will not need an SSRS Server and a Power BI Server, as the Power BI Server will be able to do both.  If you want to migrate all of the reports created in SSRS from 2008 R2, and SSRS Mobile Reports, you can migrate these reports to the new Power BI Report Server. You can use Power BI Reporting Server for reports created on earlier versions, as long as you have a version of SQL Server 2016 Enterprise per-core edition with SA. The Power BI Report Server will be a separate install with separate release schedules, which currently are planned about once a quarter. Power BI Report Server will also be able to publish reports to mobile devices as well. If the reports uses data in the cloud, you can employ a Data Gateway as the Power BI Reporting Server can use the gateway to access cloud data. Of course if all of the data in the report is located on-premises, no gateway will be required.

Power BI Pro Licenses for On-Premise Reporting

While there is going to be no additional cost for running reports locally, or looking at them, creating and sharing reports for the Power BI Report will require a Power BI Pro License.  The Power BI Desktop is going to be free, and there is still going to be a free version of Power BI. There will also be a  new desktop version of Power BI for Reporting Services which will be on the same version as the Server, which will have fewer updates. This means if you support Power BI Service Reports and Power BI Report Server Reports you will have two versions of the Desktop, the Reporting Services Power BI Desktop and the Power BI Service Desktop.  Both are designed to run on the same machine. So far I have not had any problems having both other than remembering which is which as the icons are the same.  You have to load the software to see that the top line has (Report Server).

Starting June 1, free Power BI license holders will no longer be able to share reports.  Reports created with a free license can be viewed only by the person with the free account.

Power BI Desktop does not have Dashboards, and neither will Power BI

When it is released, Power BI Report Server will be displaying reports created from the Power BI Desktop.  Dashboards are not created in the Power BI Desktop application, meaning that there will be no Power BI Dashboards in the Power BI Report Server.  While this may change in a later release, it is not available in the first release, which also does not support R or custom visuals either.  To display and distribute dashboards, use the Power BI service.

I am sure there will be more announcements about this and other upcoming Power BI features. Many will most likely be announced at Microsoft’s Data Summit Conference in June, which I will fortunately have the opportunity to attend.  If you are going to be there as well, drop me a line or ping me on twitter at @desertislesql and perhaps we can meet in person.
 ***Update I have a post which covers the released version of Power BI Report Server.  Click here to find what was changed since this post was written.
Yours Always

Ginger Grant

Data aficionado et SQL Raconteur